Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

I’ve been home for over a week from my kid free vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and it already feels like I’ve been back for months. No offence to my boys or anything but an all inclusive without kids…that’s a hard thing to leave behind.

Now that I’ve had some time to detox and dry out, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some details of the resort and to do a a real review. I know that there are tons of reviews on TripAdvisor but I find them kind of all over the place. Some of the reviews were so scary that we almost cancelled. Which is a shame because the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort (with a casino and aqua park!) was one of the best affordable all inclusive resorts I’ve been to.

ROOMS

We booked our trip about 10 days before we left. I do this a lot because with this timeline, resorts and hotels, are looking to fill their rooms and the prices often begin to drop substantially. We compared what we paid with others at the resort and we definitely got the best deal at $677 CAD per person for our flight and all inclusive stay. At the time of booking we asked for a non-smoking, updated room, near the beach and pool. We landed in Block M which was a bit far from the main bar and restaurant but close to the sand and pool action. It was still quiet enough at night that we didn’t hear any noise from the club or the beach parties. (That I may or may not have participated in. Until 6 am.)

Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. A real review

Our room was lovely, with two double beds, huge closet space, an updated bathroom with walk in shower (no tub) and lots of room to move around. We had a nice view of the back of the property with lots of palm trees and foliage however, we spent very little time in our room. Let’s be real. We were there to eat, sun, and party. The room was for sleeping and I barely did any of that.

Some of our friends had rooms directly above the main building and I heard that these rooms haven’t been renovated. They didn’t mind since they also didn’t spend much time in their rooms. What would have driven me round the bend, however, was the insane screaming of the peacocks who hung around the main building. We often saw them perched on the balcony of the second floor rooms. That would have been a total no for me. Peacocks are gorgeous but they’re kind of the assholes of the bird world.

The upgraded members had rooms on the quiet side of the resort with access to bed like cabanas and things I neither can afford nor care about. It looked lovely and quiet over there and really, really boring. So there’s that.

MEALS

The main building hosts two buffets to accommodate all the guests. As with most resorts, the buffet hours are limited and breakfast often ends before the party people come back to life. Which didn’t really matter since a breakfast buffet was also set up near the main pool. That breakfast buffet changed into a lunch buffet that ran all afternoon. We hit up the breakfast buffet in the main lobby (either Sanoa or Macao) most days but skipped the lunch buffet in favor of hanging by the pool. We only had dinner in the main buffet one night since the concierge was able to get us into restaurants every night but one. Super appreciated that because we got to eat at the Japanese restaurant twice. Mmmm….sushi!

We had one meal at the Mexican restaurant and it was fine. The Italian dinner was lovely as was the Mer. But Jade was simply our favorite. We didn’t make it to the steakhouse, of the Diner largely because there may have some pool party shenanigans and we forgot to check back in with the concierge that night for the Steakhouse dinner. We wound up at the buffet just as it was closing. I have no idea what I was eating at that point but I think it was delicious.

POOLS, BARS, AND ENTERTAINMENT

The Sirenis Cocotal has insanely gorgeous pools that wind throughout the resort. We spent most of our time on the shallow side near the swim up pool bar where all the action was.

Review of Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort, Punta Cana, Domincan Republic. travelingsinglemom.com

The cabana of the bar coupled with the bridge made for some well needed shade during mid-day. The cocktails and party atmosphere made for some crazy times. The other side of the resort also had a pool bar and it was much quieter with a more relaxed atmosphere. The deep end of the pool is in the middle and connects to the other pools. Personally, it was too deep for me to hang out in without spilling my ever present drink.

Review of the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic- travelingsinglemom.com

The statue attracted some bathing beauties who were not interested in partying with us. We liked that they kept to their side of the pool, thanks very much.

Traveling Single Mom- Review of the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana

The Animacion (entertainment) team was a little bit cheesy but also a whole lot of fun. The Miss Bikini and Mr. Sexy contests haven’t changed all that much since I was there in the 1980’s and the insane skit on our last day was beyond cheesy but pretty hilarious in the end.

The Animacion team was also responsible for water aerobics and exercise classes. People seem to like that. I enjoyed watching while sipping my first Bloody Mary of the day. Apparently there is a gym on site as well, but I may have missed that.

Some of our friends hit up the shows every night and loved the productions. I was too busy being my own production.

We’re not really into shows so we usually booked ourselves into late dinners before meeting others at the main bar. Where we drank the local drink, Mamajuana, into the wee hours. Occasionally we hit the disco, where we danced until 2 am with resort guests and locals before hitting the beach to party until dawn. Sometimes we skipped the disco and hung around the main bars until closing time. The bar closed at 1:30 am and the disco at 2 am. Hence the beach parties. It’s rather amazing that we actually ever made it to breakfast before the 10 am closing. Yes, I’m 47. I regret nothing.

THE NEGATIVES

Overall it was a pretty terrific experience however, there were a couple of negatives. The first was that the pools (and pool bars!) close very suddenly at 6 pm. One minute the music is blaring and the party is on and the next, security is blowing whistles and telling everyone to get out. Not cool. The other had nothing to do with the location or the staff and everything to do with the parents who let the kids jump all over people in the very adult area of the pool bar. Since I’ve got kids and all, I tried not to get annoyed with the little people jumping and splashing water in my drink. I was super annoyed however, with the parents who were lounging at the bar and ignoring their children. There’s a water park at Sirenis that is pretty spectacular. Parents. Seriously. There’s a bar and restaurant and everything and you can hang out with other parents. I would have killed for that when we were in Cuba last spring.

A review of Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. travelingsinglemom.com
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TRIP DETAILS: (affiliate links included)

WHERE:  Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

CURRENCY: Dominican pesos or US dollars

RESORT: Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino and Aquapark. See the TripAdvisor reviews here.

BOOKED THROUGH: Redtag.ca

COST: $677 CAD- All inclusive with flight for one week. Expedia has some pretty great deals, as well, from the US and Canada when you combine flight and hotel packages.

TIP: Book 10 to 12 days before for the best deals. Ask for an upgraded room near the ocean. We were in the M building.

DRINK: Mamajuana!!

EAT: Jade- The Japanese Restaurant. Best sushi and a pretty great show, too.

 

Road Trip- Ontario to South Carolina and Back Again

How fun are road trips? Seriously. I’m not even kidding. As much as I love the fairly instant gratification of grabbing a plane and arriving somewhere a few hours later, I love me some road tripping. I heart the idea of going at our own pace, stopping when and where we want, and actually seeing the country. Also, the boys acted like wild animals at the last airport we flew out of so there was that. And, I had just bought a new car that was supposed to be amazing on mileage and I wanted to give it a run. So one fine April morning, we loaded up the new car and took off from Ontario to South Carolina.

Road trip from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com

I’ve done the trip to South Carolina twice before, once by car and once by plane, but this trip was special because it was during the spring. Because I live in “cold Canada” as my boys call it, it was like traveling through the seasons. The trees were bare in Ontario and it was still freezing cold when we left but once we got to Southern Ohio the trees were starting to show signs of buds. By the time we hit South Carolina, it was full blown summer. Love that.

Road trip tips and tricks for traveling with kids from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com

We tend to start early on road trips because I like to get as much driving in as possible on the first day when we’re still fresh and enthusiastic. On that Wednesday morning, however, we didn’t get on the road until well after 11 AM. I had this half wit idea that if Aiden went to his OT (Occupational Therapy) appointment in the morning, he would be tired enough to nap in the car. I was wrong. Neither kid napped and both talked or shouted non-stop until we stopped at 10 PM in West Virginia.

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About that. I had intended to stop around 7 PM at a hotel with a pool and let the boys swim and burn off steam and maybe I could sip a glass of wine while they had at it. No idea what I did wrong but it probably had something to do with I-77 and the fact that there are very few hotels out there in West Virginia.

Road tripping through I77 West Virginia- travelingsinglemom.com
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Y’all…West Virginia is something else. Beautiful, breathtaking, and scary as all hell if you’re driving in the dark and it happens to be raining. The highway is carved out of the Appalachians and you can’t see anything but black on either side and there’s all these sharp curves and corners. And also, the transport trucks drive really fast, honk their horns, and scare the crap out of you on route. From the time we got on the toll highway ($8 from one end to the other) we had nowhere to stop until we got off in Beckley, WV. Which meant we stopped too late to do much of anything but crash. Thankfully, not literally.

I took the first hotel I found. Which happened to be completely by accident since I got off one exit too soon and was completely lost. In the dark. In the mountains. When the Country Inn and Suites loomed up in front of me, I ran in and grabbed a room. To the tune of $90 a night (which turned into $125 CAD. Ouch.) Regardless, I was so super happy to find a hotel, I didn’t much care. Take our chances on the interstate or take the readily available room? No brainer. Exhausted and freaked out by the scary interstate in the rain at night, I took the room.

Road trip from Ontario to South Carolina- Stopping in West Virginia
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Which actually turned out to be really lovely with a complimentary breakfast. And not just stale bagels and a banana, either. Hot food, loads of kid friendly choices, and a really pretty view of the indoor pool. I wish I was the kind of person who could lollygag and poke around because both the indoor and outdoor pools looked lovely and West Virginia is really gorgeous. But when I’m on route to a destination, particularly a beach destination, I’m determined to get there. And with two mostly potty trained boys that’s never as quick as I’m hoping it will be.

When I stepped outside and looked around in the daylight, I could see why I was so freaked out the night before. Beckley is gorgeous but hell to drive through during the night.

Gorgeous Beckley, West Virginia. Beautiful during the day, scary as hell to drive through at night. - travelingsinglemom.com
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From Beckley, it took us another 6 1/2 hours until we arrived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Once we got there however, it took almost 2 hours to make it a couple of miles down the road to Surfside Beach to pick up our keys. The traffic in Myrtle Beach is insane regardless of the time of day but on Thursday at rush hour, it pretty much sent me over the edge. I don’t think it helped that Toopy and Binoo was playing on the portable DVD player (we have and love this one!) right behind my head. I have no idea who gave the boys that video but if I ever remember we will no longer be friends.

Our condo was technically in Myrtle Beach but in actual fact was located in Surfside Beach which is on the south end of the whole Myrtle Beach area. We had a (mostly) terrific time and you can read about the entire adventure in the next couple of weeks when I share more in upcoming posts. We spent a couple of days in Charleston and on the Isle of Palms as well so check back in for all the details!

Our drive home was a little more leisurely since I knew we’d be heading back to the cold again. We took our time and stopped early in Marietta, Ohio.

Road trip from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Stopping in Marietta, Ohio.- travelingsinglemom.com
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The boys weren’t at their best (Caution-understatement alert) so we grabbed a pizza and ate in our room before hitting the pool. This was one of the nicer indoor pools I’ve been to on the road and the boys paddled about in their “floaties” while I soaked in the hot tub. And, yes, I brought some wine to sip this time.  Liam tried to join me but I scared him off with tales of how hot the water was. #parentingwin

Road trip from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Stopping in Marietta Ohio. Great pool and hot tub!- travelingsinglemom.com
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Nice, right?

Road trip adventures. Driving from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Where to stay and how we managed.- travelingsinglemom.com
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We took our time getting on the road in the morning, stopping for the free breakfast (loved the waffles!) at the hotel before doing some shopping. Once the boys started licking each other, I figured it was time to get back on the road. The trip from Ohio to Ontario was uneventful except for the part where the boys screamed and yelled for the last 3 hours of the journey. Nothing I said or threatened seemed to settle them and it was so bad that by the time crossed the boarder, I was pretty distressed. Aiden, in particular, took great delight in sending out a series of high pitched screams. For an hour. It was so loud that the boarder crossing officer took pity on me and when I declared the moonshine in my trunk, she said “Good for you, honey. Best get home and open that tonight.” and waved us on through. Bless her.

Is a road trip as a single parent with two little kids doable? You bet. Was it all rainbows and unicorns? Hell, no. It’s been a few weeks since we got home and promptly announced to the boys I’d never take them anywhere again. Lies, all lies. if you ask the boys, they have nothing but happy memories, even of the long road trip. I’ve burned the Toopy and Binoo DVD. And, because South Carolina is so incredibly gorgeous, we’ll probably do it again. 🙂

RESOURCES: (Affiliate links included. Read our full disclosure policy here.)

Details and resources from our latest road trip. Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com

Expedia.ca: Road Trip: Today’s Top Deals on Expedia!

Pros and Cons of All Inclusive Resorts With Kids

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of all inclusive resorts most of the time. I have this thing about wanting to kind of immerse myself in wherever I happen to be traveling and I want to feel like I’m part of real life. Having said that, I’ve been to my share of all inclusive resorts and we just came back from an all inclusive in Cuba (Blau Costa Verde Plus) with my two little boys. As a single parent, all inclusive resorts are a great way to get your feet wet in the big wide world of travel. I think all inclusives are great when traveling with children, particularly young ones for a whole bunch or reasons. I also think there are a few drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts with kids. travelingsinglemom.com

 

Pros of All Inclusive Resorts:

PRICE

While it’s true that all inclusives can be pricey, depending on the location and resort, they can easily be way more cost effective than regular travel. Our last trip to Cuba cost us $1800 (CAD) for three of and that included having to pay the adult price for my four year old. Our regular jaunts to Florida (Panama City Beach) costs us around $1100 (USD) for the condo alone for a week. That doesn’t include the driving and overnights in hotels, food along the way, or meals out when we arrive. And, despite my intentions to eat in, we tend to go out for a ton of meals. I usually end up spending closer to $2500 for a condo rental at the beach for a week. Not so cheap. If you’re willing to go last minute, which we did, the cost cutting can be huge.

What’s generally included in the price? Airfare, transportation to and from the resort, the resort accommodations, all meals and beverages including alcohol (!!), kids club (if available), beach and pool chairs, hotel fridge stock up (although limited, it’s always been enough for us), entertainment and shows, the disco, activities during the day, and all the sun and relaxation you can handle.

FOOD AND DRINKS

An all inclusive is exactly that. Food, drinks (booze included….hallelujer!) and snacks are part of the package. Now, I listened to lots of people bitch and complain about both the food and the quality of liquor but as a single parent, having free flowing wine, rum punch, ice cream, and meals all thought out and planned for me was a big time win. Ready for dinner, kids? Let’s belly up to the buffet. No cooking, no clean up, no trying to find a restaurant that everyone can agree on only to order kids meals that cost $6 each that no one eats. (When will I learn to just order them a single plate of fries?) My guys really enjoyed the virgin slushies and Liam (4) had his first Shirley Temple. Which he charmingly refers to a Shirley Centennial.  There’s nothing quite like hearing your 3 year old ask if we can go to the bar to reinforce why all inclusives with kids are pretty awesome.

All lot of people complain about the food and liquor at resorts, claiming it’s not the best, or it’s boring and repetitious. That may be true but it’s never bothered me one bit. And I probably should point out that the repetitive thing is a total plus when travelling with kids. My guys loved that there was pancakes for breakfast every single morning, rice and pork for dinner, and they could always find something to stuff their picky eating faces with. The very thing that makes adults complain, usually makes for happy and well-fed kids.

LOCATION

By their very nature, all inclusive resorts are usually located in some pretty fantastic places. Generally, they are right on or very close to a beach, usually in tropical climates. Most days the biggest choice involves sunbathing at the pool(s) or hitting the beach. It’s a hard life. In addition to the great location, all inclusives usually have the airport transport thing taken care of as part of the package. Not having to find a taxi or bus after dealing with kids, customs, and luggage is pretty great. The resorts are usually fairly close to airports as well which minimizes the amount of traveling you do back and forth when all you want to do is either get there or get home.  In addition, if you care about this kind of thing, all inclusives are exclusive walled communities with gates and security. As you can probably tell, I don’t worry about stuff like that but I know lots of people that do.

AMENITIES

All inclusive resorts are known for their amenities. Most have more than one pool, many  have swim up bars (Aiden’s favorite thing), they often have designated kids pools and even kids clubs where parents can get a break as part of the all inclusive price.  Water sports are often included, as is the gym in the price you pay before you arrive. In addition to what’s included in your package, many resorts offer fee for services as well, including spa treatments, babysitting (hello!), and sports such as scuba diving, golf, and sailing. Often the resort provides entertainment at nights, a disco (that we will likely never get to since we’re all asleep by 10pm) and activities during the day. I enjoyed watching the aqua gym classes while sipping a cold drink in the shade. So inspiring. On top of all that, your bar fridge is topped up daily, there are tons of places to eat and drink, and you don’t need to lug beach chairs or make your bed since all that’s taken care of.

Along with the resort amenities, most offer tour packages off resort. In Cuba there were trips to local cigar factories or markets. In Jamaica, we took a snorkeling day trip on a catamaran and climbed the waterfall in Dunn’s river. Well, the kids did. I cheered and took pictures.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts. Tours and sight seeing. Travelingsinglemom.com
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CONVENIENCE

Everything you need for a great vacation is right inside the walls of the resort. Beaches, pools, activities, kids clubs, meals, drinks, and entertainment. If you’re looking to relax, this is the way to go. As someone who spends a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of everything and overthinking pretty much all of the time, an all inclusive is a really nice break from all of that.  Meals are planned and scheduled, beverages flow, and while you’re sunbathing or sipping rum punch, someone cleans up your room and makes your bed. No grocery shopping, no cooking, and no cleaning. Can’t argue with that.

 

Cons of All Inclusive Resorts:

FOOD AND DRINK

You are not seeing double. This made it into the pros and cons list.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts. The food. travelingsinglemom.com
Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor.com

Personally, as a fairly picky eater, I’ve never been unhappy with the food at an all inclusive resort. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to plan, prep, cook and clean up that I’m happy with whatever is being served. Having said that, I’ve heard tons of complaints about food at all inclusives, largely around the buffet which can get repetitious. Yes, lots of the dishes are repeated, particularly breakfast meals. The theme nights can look a bit like all the other nights but there’s also lots of a la carte dining options to get a break from the buffet. The downside of those restaurant options is that you need to make reservations fast. Like the day you arrive or most will be booked and you’ll miss out. The only a la carte restaurant we managed to get into was the Cuban restaurant at Blau Costa Verde. Everything else had been all booked up and that happens pretty much everywhere.

IT’S OFTEN NOT “ALL INCLUSIVE”

While lots of things are included in the package price, many things are not. Generally water sports involving catamarans, golf, spa treatments, and babysitting are going to cost extra. Tours are rarely included in your ticket price and can be expensive. Car rental, jet skis, and bike rental can all add up as well. Check the details of your package to be sure of what’s actually included to avoid disappointment and unplanned for expenses once you arrive.

LIMITED TIMES FOR MEALS AND DRINKS

The buffets and restaurants operate according to certain hours.  As an example, the buffet hours at our resort in Cuba were as follows:

Breakfast: 7-10:30 am
Lunch: 12-2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:30 – 9:30 pm

The pool bar on the plus side of the resort was open from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm. There were loads of other bars open, but that one was the most popular.

Lots of folks had something to say about that. Personally, that doesn’t bother me in the least since that’s kind of how the world works. Restaurants have operating  hours. I don’t run an all day kitchen at home. And, I’m traveling with little kids so those hours worked fine and made sense for us. There are lots of other bar options but if you’re having a good and boozy time around the pool, the early closure was pretty insulting for some travelers. Those are the same folks that had a bit of trouble getting to breakfast in time and, thus, complained a lot about the breakfast hours.

Many resorts have a 24 hour place to grab a light meal or snack but some don’t. Ours had lunch offered in different restaurants and near the beach in addition to the buffet. Again, check your resort details before leaving home so you know what to expect.

YOU’RE NOT SEEING THE COUNTRY

I have tons of friends who travel constantly to all inclusive resorts who “love Jamaica”, and “adore the Dominican Republic”, and tell me “Mexico is awesome”. But they don’t leave the resorts. And when they do they’re on tours designed for tourists. There is nothing wrong with that at all. We were in Cuba and didn’t leave the resort because…well….the boys and a problem with renting a car. The boys, both of whom have FASD, don’t do well with more than one major thing a day. That’s okay and I knew it would be that way going in. But when friends asked me how I liked Cuba, I say “I don’t know, I haven’t really been there.” Because when you go to a resort you could literally be anywhere. Like, can you figure out where this is? Me neither, but it sure is pretty.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts with kids. Travelingsinglemom.com

Going to an all inclusive resort teaches you nothing about the country your visiting with the possible example of how they cater to tourists. There is no learning about a new culture or country, nor is there any real participation in local life. The outings are on catamarans and to tourist destinations. The sight seeing is just that. Seeing the sights. The only interaction with local people or customs occurs pretty far away from reality. Even the food is toned down to cater for tourists from a wide variety of places. So all inclusive resorts are not a good way to see a country unless you’re willing to leave and strike out on your own. I tried to rent a car in Cuba one day but they didn’t have any available and the cost was insane. Also, the fellow insisted I rent it for 3 days which kind of defeated the idea of an all inclusive for me. I wanted to tour for one day but the rest of the time, I wanted the luxury of no meals to plan and no brain power to harness. So we happily stayed on the resort. But I can’t pretend that I know what Cuba is really like, either.

TRAVELERS GUILT

Maybe it’s just me but I feel a fair bit of guilt when I stay in a luxury resort in a really poor country. Perhaps it’s the whole former social worker thing, or just that I really want to feel a connection with people wherever I am. So when very poor people from a very poor country are waiting on me, I always struggle. Maybe guilt isn’t the right word, but there’s definitely an awareness that while I’m not wealthy by any means at home (#singleparent), I’m one of the haves being waited on by the have nots while I’m in a resort.  When other guests start bitching and complaining about the service, or the resort, or the “quality” of foods or liquor, I have a tendency to become mortified at the entitlement that we have and are taking for granted in, what is usually, a third world country.

And then there’s the whole “I should be doing more” thing that happens to me when I get anywhere and park my butt on a beach chair. When we’re at the pool, I feel guilty that we’re not at the beach. When we’re at the beach, I feel like we need to leave the resort and do more. I voiced that to a lot of folks at our resort and learned I wasn’t alone until someone kindly reminded me that “You paid to be lazy”. Bless him.

Travelers guilt. It’s real. It’s yukky. I think someone needs to invent a very strong, rum soaked drink called “Travelers Guilt”. Strong enough to wipe away any guilty feeling about anything. It could be accompanied by a sister drink called “Shut Up”. Strong enough that people stop complaining that the food and such isn’t up to their standards and all.

All inclusive resorts. Pros and cons by traveling single mom.
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All inclusive resorts can be an amazing way to have vacation, particularly when traveling with kids, as long as you know what you’re looking for in a holiday. As always, check things out before you leave and read the fine print to avoid disappointment after you arrive.

Want to start planning your own all inclusive vacation? Take a peak at the Top All Inclusive Caribbean Resorts as recommended by TripAdvisor.

NOTE: Affiliate links to TripAdviser have been included in this article because I pretty much don’t go anywhere without them. Read our full disclosure policy here